Android 4.2's four best new features

Android 4.2's four best new features

Summary: There's a new version of Android, Android 4.2, coming from Google and here are its best new features.

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Say hi to Android 4.2, aka Jelly Bean mark 2.

When Google announced its new Nexus tablet and smartphone line, the search giant also announced, almost in passing, that there's a new version of Android on its way: Android 4.2.

While Android 4.2 isn't a major upgrade, it does bring significant improvements to the popular, open-source mobile operating system. Android 4.2, which will still go by Android 4.1's name Jelly Bean, will first ship on Google and LG's new Nexus 4 smartphone and Samsung's Nexus 10 tablet on November 13. I expect, but I have been unable to confirm, that the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus will also be upgraded to 4.2 then. As for the rest of the Android device family, as always it depends not on Google, but on your smartphone carrier or tablet vendor when, if ever, you'll see an Android upgrade.

Some of the Android 4.2 upgrades are minor. Sure, it might be nice to use the Photo Sphere feature to stitch together photos to from Google Street View style panoramic images, but you're not going to do that more than once every blue moon. It's also nice that the 4.2 Play Store app includes a personalized music-shopping function, Music Explorer. Thanks to personalized music services such as Pandora, I really don't need more help in finding new music.

Other new features, however, will want you to make the jump. From least to most important in my book these are:

4) Smart Screen-Savers

Android 4.2's Daydream is actually a smart screen-saver. It lets you display photo slideshows, news headlines, and the like. While you're not likely to use this on a smartphone I know I'll set up a news feed screen-saver on my Nexus 7 tablet and I know my day-trader friends will be setting up market wires on their devices as well.

3) Gesture Typing

Do you use Swype, the popular third-party on-screen keyboard replacement? If you do, then you'll find the same basic functionality to make on-screen keyboards more useful in Gesture Typing. This probably won't be enough to sway hard-core Swype users away from their favorite virrtual keyboard, but it will show screen-typers that there is a better way than using a display keyboard than just as a QWERTY glass keyboard.

2) Miracast: From Tablet and Smartphone to TV

Apple recently introduced AirPlay Mirroring in iOS 5 and Mac OS X, Mountain Lion. With it, you can throw your screen to any Apple TV-equipped television. Android 4.2 will let you do the same thing with any TV, DVD-player, or other media device that supports Miracast.

Miracast is the trade name for Wi-Fi Direct or WiDi. This is an 802.11n compatible network protocol for display-sharing. With a compatible device or a Miracast adapter, you'll be able to stream Internet TV shows and movies from your smartphone or tablet to your TV. Miracast adapters will be available this quarter.

1) Multi-user support

On Android 4.2-powered tablets, but not on smartphones, you'll be able to have multiple users. Each user will get his or her own setup. That means, for example, you can have your own home-screen, background, widgets, apps and games, while your spouse or office partner can have their own unique tablet experience. You can set this up so a new user must login to the tablet or they'll be able to simply hit a button and away they'll go with their own tablet take.

So, why isn't this available for smartphones? We don't know. There's some speculation that it's to avoid a Nokia patent on multi-user phones.

There may be something to that, but since multi-user functionality on computing devices goes back to the 60s, I'm inclined to think that Google didn't bother with it because there's almost no demand for it on smartphones. I, for one, have no problem letting someone use one of my tablets for a few minutes, but I'm far more hesitant about letting anyone borrow my phones.

Taken all-in-all this is indeed just a minor upgrade. That said, I know for a fact I'll be using the screen-saver, Miracast, and the multi-user functionality almost every day. OK Google, smatphone and tablet vendors, I'm ready for it. Let's have it!

Related Stories:

Topics: Android, Google, Networking, Smartphones, Tablets

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78 comments
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  • Android is touted as "more advanced" yet it lacked so many function ...

    comparing to iOS.

    The fact is that both iOS and Android lacked and continue to lack certain features so there is no clear answer which iOS overall is "more advanced".

    There is, however, clear answer to other aspects of those OSs:
    1) iOS has simpler and more consistent UI; plus it is still slightly more fluent comparing to Android even after 4.1 release;
    2) Android is more customizable, better for geeks who like to weak it (unless geeks jailbreak iOS which is perfectly legal and allows the same level of customization or even bigger unless Android is rooted);
    3) overall applications quality is better for iOS -- not because people want to program for Android sloppy -- but simply because of fragmentation;
    4) still like 100 times less tablet applications for Android.

    Will those points change in the future?
    #1 Google closes the gap, Android became much better in couple of recent releases;
    #2 is not going to change;
    #3 is not going to change;
    #4 gradually, but very slowly, Android platform will be closing the gap.
    DDERSSS
    • This is incorrect

      1 Horses for courses. Many users do not like iOS hand holding them. They love Androidi and dislike iOS's sameness
      2. You do not have to customise if you do not want to.
      3. This is subjective. I own both
      4. I have many more apps in my tablet than I can handle.
      5. Android device prices are nearly half when compared to IOS for higher specs
      Van Der
      • No, it is correct

        2. Yes, it if fair to both platforms. However, Android is more customizable by default, so it is more geeks-ready, and yes, it is Android's advantage.
        3. Quite objective. iOS applications are designed for specific sizes of devices, specific resolutions. And this is not possible on Android.
        4. The issue is not how many apps you can handle, the issue is how many apps you can choose from. It is like day and night.
        5. In many cases there are no higher specs in Android devices for any price. One-hand controllable much more battery-lifetime lightest thinnest metal phone with Retina-class perfectly calibrated screen with the widest application and media libraries which is faster in many integer tests and dramatically faster in graphics? It is only iPhone 5.
        DDERSSS
        • Reply to #1

          1. It is not issue of how many of users which OS have, it is issue being simpler and more consistent. iOS still better in this regard.
          DDERSSS
          • Yes, Very Consistent.

            Too consistent, to the point of NO change for 6 and a half years. Every iDevice is a variation of an iPod Touches UI.
            brandnew2234
        • Yes it is incorrect

          You have no clue what Android lacks because your head is too far up yer twitter to see reality!

          I would say Airplay is the biggest advantage that Apple had with iOS devices... Everything else, Android is as good or better (yes that includes Siri, which gets owned by Google Now).
          slickjim
          • Not quite

            Google Now beats Siri only on part of the tests; in the other part, Siri still beats Now.
            DDERSSS
          • iOS development is standing still by comparison to Android

            What other part are you referring to? The incessant babbling by Siri with inane phrases like, "I'm on it.", "Here you go.", etc. All these phrases are just audible filler noise. They don't supply any constructive feedback to the user experience. They are just increasingly annoying when you compare it to Google Voice Search.

            BTW, the new Google Now on Android 4.2 adds a whole bunch of other functions that Siri could do, but Google Now couldn't. Not the case anymore so there is no PART where Siri is better than the latest Google Now.

            Also, a new feature not mentioned in the article is wireless charging.
            laequis
          • Sorry, Siri Sucks

            Fail. The best real world Siri performance is 10% as good as Google Now. Siri is a silly cute toy. It underperformed every time I have witnessed it, and the iPhone user makes excuses and attempts to get a smile with What is the Meaning of Life answers. SIRI IS Just not useful!
            heymull
        • #3

          Android was built for handling any screen size from the beginning!

          Also, you missed the recent headlines about Android apps being just a few % away feom App Store in app count.

          #5: lolwut? Retina is just marketing bs, anything above ~200 is hard to tell apart. Metal? The aluminum on the i5 was a bad choice. It makes NFC impossible, among others. And it will get scratches and bumps. Battery? lol, I can easily get a 4000+ mAh battery. Widest applixation? xD
          Only RAM is faster on it. Nothing else. And media? Android beats iPhone on codecs.

          Also, a jailbroken iPhone CAN NOT do more than unrooted Android. We can swap SMS apps, phone apps, calendar, Maps app, lockscreen, automate almost everything, etc...
          Natanael_L
          • yeah

            Everything above 150dpi/ppi is hard to see difference without a loupe. That is reason why photographers have kept 150 minimal dpi for photo quality when it is about photos what are watched from distance of 5-10 inch.
            Fri13
        • Apps

          So the sheer number of apps makes iOS better? How about the number of quality apps? I'd say that's pretty close to the same. And it's pretty funny that the apps I have on my Android tablet are the same apps that a friend has on his iPad; well, the same apps with different names in some cases. And we can both get the same things accomplished with our tablets. Of course, DDERSSS, you have always been an Apple fan on these forums so I'd expect you to be in favor of Apple products.
          benched42
        • Soo...

          So, because you say it's correct must mean it's correct? No.
          ZackCDLVI
        • nope

          #3

          It is possible and easier than for iOS with Android.

          For iOS developer needs to make GUI with bitmaps and scale them separetely to every iOS release, now there are four (4) different sizes to be taken care.
          But with android, designer only makes one GUI what then gets scaled to every device with different resolution and it looks as wanted.

          Clearly you have not designed Android and iOS apps as others of us but you only repeat that FUD of Android being "fragmented" while it is not. There was a change to happens but Google stopped it by disallowing Android 3.x to be installed at phones.
          Fri13
        • Can't totally take the battery crown...

          Not with the 3300 mAh Razr Maxx and Razr Maxx HD around. And there are one-hand capable Android phones as well. Obviously, not all in the same package as the iPhone 5 - but some phones do top the iPhone 5 in certain areas.
          traumadog1
    • Jailbreaking iOS is legal...

      ...but Apple reserves the right to brick jailbroken devices.
      John L. Ries
      • Only iPhones

        Jailbreaking iPads is illegal. Per the librarian of Congress and the DMCA.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Huh?

          Nope, it was deemed fair use and it isn't illegal. Apple can void the warranty though.
          slickjim
          • RE: Huh?

            Not so for tablets:

            http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57540756-93/feds-uphold-jailbreaking-laws-on-dvds-game-consoles-tablets/
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Gosh

            the topic of that link is disgusting! Truely disgusting.
            Jxn